Train up a Child...

Published January 31, 2019 by SMBC

Some of the moments of greatest clarity in ministry for me were in response to a simple and unassuming conversation which collided with my understanding of the inherent value God sees in each of us and the overwhelming desire He has for us to live beautiful lives filled with joy and blessing.
The number one conversation on this list goes like this:
Kid tells a racy joke, cusses, or some other unsavory thing comes out of his or her mouth.
Parent, another adult, or a friend responds with, "We don't talk like church." Ughhh. What if what the response ended just two words earlier with "We don't talk like that?"
A second conversation that helped crystallize a core ministry tenet was with a member of the Stewardship Committee several years ago. I was happily sharing the increased number of children who had turned in pledge cards when this adult responded, "But honestly, it doesn't really matter. We don't need to give attention to that metric. The money the children give is insignificant."
Now on one hand, part of this statement was true. Last year the under 18 crowd gave approximately $2,337 to the budget which barely equates to .06% of our 4 million plus budget.
But on the other hand...
The seventy-three kids who turned in a "promise" card in 2018 were growing deep and practiced in their faithfulness. Within the Family Ministry, we don't talk about pledge cards. We do however, talk a lot about God's great and unending love for us. That no matter what, He has promised to love us, to be there for us, and to rescue us. In response to His promise, we believe it is vitally important for each of us to in turn make a promise to be faithful to Him.
Within the Family Ministry, we view stewardship as an ideal way to tangibly make a public promise (we all need some loving accountability in living out our promises) that can be repeated every week (which is a necessary element in establishing habit).
We begin these discussions in Mrs. Kelly's PreK Sunday School class where children are encouraged to make a promise to bring even a dime every week or $5.20 per year. Conversations are concrete and straightforward and are rooted in God loves me. We talk about it all year long and celebrate their faithfulness with a big party.
Every week in Little Church, second-grade ushers pass the offering plate. One usher begins by handing out a small wooden heart to every person in the chapel. I remind the children that everything we have really is God's, that it is our responsibility to take good care of the things we have, and it helps us remember what is important in our lives when we give some things back. Often offerings of dimes, quarters, and dollars are placed in the plate, but every time, every child places their wooden heart in the plate.
As children grow older and become members of The 527 Tribe and the Youth groups, the discussion around making promises becomes more nuanced and we encourage the amount (but not the frequency) to regularly increase. If our desire is to mobilize young adults with an authentic and lasting faith in Christ, then firmly establishing habits of generosity and stewardship while they are in the Family Ministry is key.
In 2018, 15% of all pledge cards were promises made by children ten-years-old and younger. Can you see the seeds that have been planted? Do you sense the potential in the depth of those roots? One day these children will be adults and maybe a member of a stewardship committee who will care deeply about their metrics. I contend that a pledge card is a matter of discipleship-not finances.